Dean surgeon helps small Catholic hospital in Mexico change the lives of impoverished, indigenous children
“It’s a mission that puts things in perspective.” That is how Dr. Ramzi Shehadi describes his recent trip to a small town in the south Mexican jungle.
Dr. Shehadi, a Plastic Surgeon at Dean Clinic, traveled to Altamirano in a remote part of the state of Chiapas near the border with Guatemala. Dr. Gregory Stroncek, a Madison Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon, accompanied him.
For one week, they helped more than a dozen poverty-stricken Mayan children with congenital deformities. Dr. Shehadi says they operated on kids born with tumors, Cleft lips and Cleft palates. The children are from families living in the jungle, away from mainstream civilization. Because of a history of repression, their families do not trust the local government hospitals.
But those families do trust the Hospital San Carlos, where Shehadi and Stroncek performed surgeries and lived for a week. The facility is run by a group of nuns from the Order of St. Vincent de Paul.
“Working with the nuns is a humbling experience and a life lesson,” says Dr. Shehadi. “What we do for a week at a time they do for a lifetime – they live a life of unconditional giving and love.”
Shehadi took his first trip in 2013, but Stroncek has been has been going for much longer. He helped start the mission 20 years ago. This year, they both brought their teenage sons to show them the needs of people around the world. It can help the teens “appreciate how lucky and fortunate they are, living where they do, it also teaches them the value of service to people in need” notes Shehadi.
The feedback the two doctors receive is what keeps them going back.
“The appreciation we get from the parents and families, the smiles and expression of gratitude reinforce why we went into the medical field in the first place.”